Spotlight on…Stock Dogs!

Shepard and dog herding sheep into a pen

By: Reginald Tiangha

It’s “woof, woof” meets “baa, baa” as stock dog meets sheep stock in a battle of wills during The World Stock Dog Championship. Another FREE event that takes place in the Saddledome, if you’re a dog lover, then this is the event for you. If you’re a cat lover (or just hate dogs), you can always cheer on the sheep. If you’re an animal lover in general, I guarantee that you’ll enjoy this event. I am neither (I think) and I still find this event fun to watch.

The Stock Dog competition is similar to Team Penning where a flock of three sheep need to be herded into a pen. The difference is that a) they have to be herded through an obstacle course first, and b) it isn’t up to a horse and rider to do the herding, it’s up to a single border collie who is reliant on orders from a shepherd who is forced to watch from a distance away and communicate via whistles and other verbal commands.

Border collie trying to will a flock of sheep into going where it wants them to

This is another of my favourite events during Stampede as it’s very easy to follow, appeals to all ages, and it’s fun to watch when both dog and sheep (and sometimes shepherd) have attitudes.

Mishaps can happen all the time, as sometimes the sheep won’t do anything the dog wants them to, and so you get to watch as the little dog circles around trying to get them to move where it needs them to be.  If you’re really lucky, you get to witness a staring contest between the dog and sheep as egos clash.

Sometimes, it’s fun to watch the dog as it ignores its master and tries to showboat for the audience (these dogs are very intelligent), but it’s the most fun when a dog and handler manage to successfully wrangle the sheep into the pen as everyone in the competition is vying for over $25,000 in prize money.

Scheduling information via the on-line Stampede Planner can be found here, but it’s important to note that this event only occurs on the first Sunday and Monday so if you want to catch it, you’ll have to visit on those days. That said, I highly recommend checking it out and making it a part of your Stampede experience.

Spotlight on…Team Cattle Penning!

Team Penning at the Saddledome

By:  Reginald Tiangha

First off, you may have noticed that I’ve ditched the use of all capital letters in the title. Doesn’t really look good with more than two words, but it shouldn’t detract from the fact that Team Cattle Penning (sometimes abbreviated to Team Penning for short) is one of the Stampede’s best kept secrets when it comes to fast paced and exciting events appropriate for all ages.

Taking place in the Saddledome, horse and rider teams of three have 60 seconds to separate three specifically identified cattle from a herd of 30 on one side of the arena, and maneuver them into a 16′ x 24′ pen at the opposite side.

It sounds simple in theory, but in practice can be very difficult.

You see, most of those heifers have attitudes. Sometimes, a penning team might manage to separate out two of them from the herd, but the third one proves to be problematic. Or, the particular cow that they’re trying to separate out has made friends and they may have to deal with a wrong-numbered cow that may follow it out. Or, their friendship may be so strong that the team simply can’t separate any of them out and are forced to watch helplessly as the timer runs down and the cows silently mock them.

What makes it fascinating and exciting to watch is that success really boils down to teamwork and strategy. The team has to work together in tandem in order to outsmart the cows, and sometimes may have to choose to settle for two cows instead of three.

Easy to follow along, it’s something that really has to be seen to be appreciated, and is yet another event that is FREE with admission. Scheduling information via the on-line Stampede Planner can be found here.

Spotlight on…HEAVY HORSE!

Heavy Horse Show

By:  Reginald Tiangha

The definition of a Heavy Horse is any breed of horse that is suited to or used for drawing heavy loads.

The Calgary Stampede has two main committees that put on various events involving heavy horses for the public during Stampede week.

The Stampede’s Heavy Horse committee will showcase approximately 110 heavy horse competitions (called classes) during the first four days of Stampede as part of their Heavy Horse Show (held in the Saddledome and Big Top), while the Heavy Horse Pull committee will hold competitions during the final three days showcasing light, middle, and heavy weight classes of heavy horse as they try to pull loads of over five times their own body weight across various distances (held in the Big Top).

The Pull competitions are fun to watch.  The competition is based on how the horses used to be used in real life, and it’s fascinating to see how powerful these horses really are.

Heavy Horse Show

As for the Heavy Horse Show, while there are many opportunities to catch related events, my favourite of them all is the Heavy Horse Show with Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, which are hitch and cart classes presented to music by the CPO.  They’ve been doing it for 10 years now, and sometimes it’s nice to escape to the Saddledome during a hot, rainy, and/or exhausting day to just relax and watch some beautiful horses “dance” to some wonderful music.

Schedule information via the on-line Stampede Planner can be found in the links above, and best of all, these events are all FREE with admission!

– Reg

Introducing: Spotlight on…STAMPEDE!

By:  Reginald Tiangha

I’m not sure about you guys, but I’ve got a fever that can only be cured with mini-donuts (and alas, not more cowbell; sorry Chris).

I can only speak for myself, but being a born and bred Calgarian, for the longest time growing up, my Stampede week only consisted of the midway and marketplace, mainly because it never occurred to me to do anything else.  It was only within the last few years that I discovered a whole different side to Stampede week that I simply wasn’t aware of.

With Stampede about a week away, I figured I’d take the opportunity to highlight a few events and activities that will be happening on the grounds or downtown during the ten days of Stampede that you may or may not know about. There is a lot to see and do for people of all ages, many of which are free or free with admission, and I’d like to share what I’ve found through personal experience with all of you.

So starting tomorrow, and every day or so up until the start of Stampede, tune into the Stampede blog where I’ll be shining a bright ol’ spotlight on some of the things happening during Stampede week that I feel you may not be aware of.

I hope that you’ll enjoy my “Spotlight on…” series, and in the meantime, if you have any stories to share regarding pleasant surprises or discoveries that you’ve made regarding events and activities during Stampede week over the years, feel free to leave a comment!

Cheers and see you tomorrow!

– Reg

Introducing your Abbotsford Heat, now with 100% more logo!

So the Abbotsford Heat, the brand new AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames, released their logo and jersey designs for the 2009-2010 season today:

abbotsfordheat

As you can see, it’s very similar to the Flames’ design, swapping the gold for silver.

When taken in that context, I guess the choice makes some kind of sense, although I still think that the yellow or gold (marigold?) trim of the original Flames jersey matches the “heat” theme better (or maybe orange would be a better choice, although if you look at my fashion sense, you can tell that I’m not that good with colour coordination). Whenever I see silver, I think of metal, which makes me think of something cool to the touch.

heatlogo

Not sure what I think about the logo yet, but I will admit that it’s different. Perhaps it’ll grow on me with time, but right now, I think it kinda looks like a (and I hate to say it) basketball team logo (although not the one you’re probably thinking of). Of course, I’m afraid that the upcoming third jersey of the Calgary Flames will feature something similar, mainly a logo with a wordmark that spells out the team name. Generally, I’m not a fan of such things as I think that it’s uncreative and a cop-out. Then again, I’m a fan of wearing provincial and national flags as shoulder patches on hockey jerseys as I think it’s a nice way to show patriotism, while others think that as a patch design, it’s uncreative and a cop-out so who am I to talk?

You can read about the story behind the logo here.

Blogging Again

So I’ll be blogging again for an organization, this time for the Calgary Stampede. It will be as a part of my Volunteer duties on the Stampede’s Next Generation committee this year, to help cover or promote various events put on by the Stampede while hopefully adding a somewhat non-establishment voice on things.

So tune in to the official Stampede blog for more, and I’ll be hosting local copies of the stuff I write here too for posterity (you know, just in case; they told me that I can retain copyright for posting here, on Facebook, or wherever so it should be fine). I’ll probably give the Stampede blog a period of exclusivity before importing posts here (a week maybe? Works for me since I’ll probably be too busy to post here or won’t have access to sufficient Internet connectivity to post in two places at once), but I’ll backdate them to the original posting date so that the posts will remain relevant. Don’t worry, I’ll also be adding a link to the original posting as well so that you can see it, so that the organization will benefit from the traffic, and so that you can see any blog comments that may have been posted over there.

Even if I don’t blog here regularly (either personally or on behalf of the organization), I’ll be blogging “live-to-tape” so to speak, by writing stuff down on my netbook (which I intend on taking with me whenever I visit the Stampede grounds) so that it can be posted later on when I have the time.

I’ll probably be updating Twitter as well while I’m all over town covering or doing things related to Stampede (as that’s easier to do when mobile), and will do a daily or weekly digest or something for the 10 days of Stampede, once I figure out how to extract them from the database.

So, my Stampede blogging may not be totally live or in real-time at this location (it might be next year with a little more preparation), but it will be accurate in hindsight for future generations. It’ll also be accurate and in real-time on the Twitter sidebar and the official blog, so if you regularly follow my ramblings here, then at least something will be updated here (or somewhere) this week even if I don’t have an opportunity to update the main blog.

Ways to Show Support to Iranians

Green is the main colour that people are using to show their support for the Iranian people’s cause. Yesterday, people were encouraged via Twitter to wear green that day to show solidarity and support to people who are protesting in Iran as a passive way of showing that support.

So colour me surprised when I discovered that the BBC made a change to their website today; here’s a screencap:

bbc

Now, I was told that journalists were supposed to try to not take sides in an issue (which is why this bold move is very surprising and fascinating to me, although to be fair, the BBC News site is still running the old red colour scheme), but I can only assume that this is in retaliation for the restrictions currently being put on the foreign press in regards to reporting on unauthorized gatherings or events occurring outside of their bureaus/homes.

Either that, or I’m finally going red-green colour blind in my old age.

Now, speaking of more proactive ways of showing support, here’s another interesting piece circulating on the Internet right now. Do with that what you will.

Anyways, I’m still very fascinated following all of this as it occurs, including seeing all the various pictures and videos coming out of the country sent by Iranian citizens, despite the restrictions currently being put on the foreign press. Very amazing stuff.

UPDATE: Checking again, it looks like the BBC site has changed its colours multiple times throughout the day. Perhaps this is normal? I’m Canadian, so I don’t have a clue. Still think it’s cool though, even though it goes against everything I was taught in my degree regarding computer usability and website design.

‘Official’ Iranian Election Results by Province

Unknown how accurate these numbers are, but finally found some numbers regarding the results of the elections in Iran. They’re easily lost in all the chaff and hard to find (I stumbled onto them on Saturday but forgot about them and couldn’t find them again) so I figured I’d highlight them here too:

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/06/iranian-election-results-by-province.html

My main issue: How the heck could they have tabulated approximately 40 million votes in less than two days (scratch that, two hours)? Sure, in North America, we can figure out (for the most part) who won an election riding in a night via projections, but finalized numbers usually come a few days later, barring re-counts.

Foreign Media Having a Tough Time in Iran

tehranbeating

I think a big reason why we’re not hearing a lot out of Iran right now (other than Iran being a somewhat low priority over here in North America for most of the news networks) is due to what (allegedly) the government is doing to stifle communications coming out of the country, mainly shutting down land lines and cell phones, blocking various Internet sites, revoking foreign media press credentials and visas, confiscating their equipment, ordering them to stay in their homes/hotels, randomly abducting them, jamming communication satellites, and going as far as warning the Associated Press that foreign media must be prepared to evacuate the country (aside: if you legitimately won an election, why would you feel the need to control the flow of information?? Yeah, I thought so.).

Just a few articles out there regarding the foreign media in Iran:

Massive censorship accompanies Ahmadinejad “victory”
Italian TV crew attacked by police in Tehran
CNN Newsroom: Beaten in Iran
Globe & Mail freelancer detained, beaten
Foreign media say Iran blocking coverage of protests
BBC News – The Editors: Stop the blocking now
“An election without free flow of news and information is not democratic”

There are only a few reasons I can think of on why they’d want to silence and/or kick out all the foreign press (domestic too, I suppose), and none of them are good.

The Next Day

After getting a little sleep, I decided to tune into CNN to see what they were doing.

To their credit, they’ve had reports all day long and have scheduled a couple of live broadcasts in the evening dedicated to the Iran issue. So at least there’s that. I still think they can do better though. Didn’t they have live 24-hour coverage during the Gulf War and the last Iraqi invasion? The only insightful thing they did today was Fareed Zakaria’s GPS show which gave good content and context. All day, CNN was pimping the fact that they had “all the global resources of CNN” working for them, but with the exception of one live and one recorded report from their Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, the rest of their “reports” from the region were re-run throughout the day from that same things that debuted in the morning. I know it’s tough getting reports out of the region right now, but still. Are they really throwing everything they have on this?

Still though, I’m finding that Twitter is a good resource for getting a general sense of the type of chatter going on, despite its low signal-to-noise ratio (ex. Tehran did not end up burning to the ground last night despite Twitter reports to the contrary, but according to citizen videos taken on cell phones and other cameras, there were lots of things on fire in the streets).

In fact, I’ve been addicted to following http://iran.twazzup.com/ all day. This is really fascinating stuff to me, and a real-time Twitter search aggregator like like twazzup.com is the best way to follow “news” on Twitter.

Nico Pitney has been liveblogging stuff from Iran all day via his blog at The Huffington Post. This is a really great source to follow what’s going on in quasi real-time, with some context and a bit of vetting and verification.

I still don’t know much about the politics of the region, but the more I read about what’s going on now, the more my curiosity regarding whether or not the election results are real is piqued, and the more intrigued and fascinated I find myself becoming. Right now, I’m really curious about the truth and wonder if we’ll ever know? I’ll say this: if not for the Trending Topics sidebar on Twitter, I would not have been aware of what’s going on in Iran, and based on what was available on the so-called 24-hour news channels at the time I heard about it, I probably would have never known.

I’ll also admit to feeling a little worried. It seems that these circumstances (communication black out, mis-information, arrests, foreign media having equipment confiscated, detained in their buildings, or asked to leave the country, and other such things) sounds very, very familiar…

Tehran is Burning, But There’s Nothing About it on the TV Right Now

manifs-teheran-4

I must admit, I haven’t followed what’s going on in Iran, but logging into Twitter a few hours ago and seeing #IranElection and #CNNfail as a couple of the trending topics, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to see what was going on.

What’s going on is that Iran just held their elections, and there are riots going on in the streets regarding their outcome.

Like I said, I don’t know much about Iran politics so I’ll refrain from commenting on them until I learn more, but what I’m more ticked off about is that when I heard about riots, people getting arrested, buildings burning, and such via Twitter, and wanted to see what was going on on TV (this was around 2am MST my time), all I saw was this:

CNN: Larry King interviewing the hosts of American Chopper
BBC World: Some show that wasn’t the news
CBC Newsworld: News Documentary
CTV News Channel: Repeat of CTV National News

Furthermore, the top story on the front page of CNN.com was a story about the switch from analog to digital TV signals.

In other words, none of the so-called “24 hour news” media outlets were covering the developing story live.

With some declaring that the election was stolen, citizens getting arrested, foreign media getting beaten by riot police, communications black-outs, rumors that a rally for opposition leader Mousavi being a trap to capture protesters & that the AP has been told that foreign press must be prepared to leave the country, and God knows what else, you would think that at least CNN would be covering this literally breaking news story RIGHT NOW like they did 20 years ago at Tienanmen Square (which some say is what earned them their reputation for being the worldwide leader in news).

In fact, if anything, what’s going on in Tehran right now sounds like the closest thing to Tienanmen Square this century.

That said, I totally concede that this could all be blown out of proportion (remember the old game of “Telephone” and how rapidly messages can get corrupted?) but with no one covering this live except for the web teams of the news outlets (and even then, their information flow is nothing compared to what’s coming through Twitter right now), it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

While I’m waiting for some 24 hour TV news outlet to pick this up with live coverage, I find myself glued to http://iran.twazzup.com/ and watching the real-time reports from citizens come in via Twitter.

It doesn’t matter if the reports coming from citizens are conflicting or unverified and it doesn’t matter if the news outlets covered stuff earlier in the day; there’s stuff going on RIGHT NOW and the (so-called) 24 hour news channels should be live trying to verify reports, or at least give a running tally on what’s going on. Instead, they’re all running recorded programming. Is there no one at the offices now? Just because the work day is over, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t important news happening elsewhere in the world!

Anyways, some frontline looks on what’s going on down there from people who are in the midst of things:

http://bit.ly/17SDk4 – Cell phone video from the streets
http://tr.im/oqOE – Photos from the riots
http://bit.ly/qikNS – Gun shots from the streets

And some nice articles bemoaning the lack of live coverage on TV:

Twitter Users Shame CNN For Not Covering Iran Elections, Riots
Dear CNN, Please Check Twitter for News About Iran
‘#CNNFail’: Twitterverse slams network’s Iran absence
Twitter Users Make Up For CNN’s Failure in Iranian Election Coverage
Another Journalistic Shift (Again) From Iran